Monday, June 30, 2008

A Good Example of Media Bias

Compare these two stories: here at CNN, and here at ABC. They are both about the same thing, but have key differences in language use that change the whole impression given by the story. The key sentences are at the beginning of each story.

From CNN:
A Texas man who shot and killed two men he suspected of burglarizing his neighbor's home was cleared in the shootings Monday by a grand jury.
From ABC:
A Texas man who shot and killed two men he believed to be burglarizing his neighbor's home won't be going to trial. A grand jury today failed to indict Joe Horn[.]
It may be my own bias, but CNN appears to be trying to be more neutral, or slightly favoring Mr. Horn. ABC is almost blatant in their opinion that he should have been indicted. But don't take my word for it. I encourage everyone to read both stories and judge for themselves.

A news story should use neutral word choices, and present only the facts (but all of the facts), letting the reader decide. Save the opinions for the editorials.

What was Rule 2 again?

I've never had a high opinion of the French military (something about WWII and a house of cards), but this is utter stupidity.

A quick summary: In what appears to have been a simulation/demonstration of a terrorist situation during "open barracks day," where "a crowd of hundreds of visitors [were] watching parachute commandos simulate an assault to free hostages," a soldier in the crowd, playing the part of a terrorist, opened fire on the crowd. This was part of the simulation, and he was using blanks. He then reloaded and fired again, only this time, his second magazine was loaded with live rounds. At least 17 people were injured, including 5 children. At this point they are claiming this was accidental.

There are several points of stupidity here.

1. I don't know how it works in the military (especially the French military), but if I know I'm going to be firing blanks into a crowd, I'm not going to be using any magazine I haven't loaded myself. I want to visually ensure that every single round that goes in those magazines is really, truly, a blank. Then I'm going to mark those magazines in a very distinct, very obvious, and very noticeable way. Something on the order of day-glow orange tape around the entire body of the magazine.

2. When I reload, I'm going to take a moment to look at that fresh magazine. Is it completely wrapped in that same day-glow orange tape? If not, it doesn't get used. If it is, I'm going to look at the first round, which should be visible at the top of the magazine. I'm going to verify it really is a blank by looking at it.* I'm going to look at it twice. If there is any doubt whatsoever that it really is a blank, the magazine doesn't get used. Period.
*(This is assuming that there is a visible difference for blanks that will work with the weapon in question. I've never actually seen one, but not having some visible indication strikes me as incredibly stupid. More so than this particular situation.)

3. I'm not going to be so stupid as to actually point the muzzle of my weapon at any person. Remember Rule 2??!! (Left side of the page, at the top. Read it again. Refresh it in your memory.) Even blanks can kill, in the right circumstances. Remember Brandon Lee? You usually don't realize the right circumstances exist until it's too late. Do you want to kill that child? No? THEN DON'T POINT YOUR GUN AT HIM!!!!!!

I can understand that in military training firing blanks at another soldier may be an acceptable risk. The risk of death or injury from a blank (or an unnoticed live round) is actually pretty low, and the benefits (i.e. training someone to react correctly when someone else is shooting at them) may be worth the risk. But this should never, ever, happen at a simple demonstration, and especially not by firing blanks at civilians or observers. Primary responsibility lies with the soldier who pulled the trigger, but this was a failure at all levels involved in planning and executing this demonstration.

Fortunately, no one was killed by this idiocy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blogs Added

Politics, Guns & Beer
(hat-tip to Rob Allen at Sharp as a Marble)

and, since I just realized he wasn't already there:
Sharp as a Marble

The Heller Effect Begins

BELLEVUE, WA – Following Thursday’s (5-4) ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual civil right to keep and bear arms, and that a municipal gun ban violates that right, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) filed a federal lawsuit (complaint) challenging the City of Chicago’s long-standing handgun ban.
Full press release at ChicagoGunCase.com

Also added to the link list.

(hat-tip to Rob Allen at Sharp as a Marble)

DC v. Heller - First Impressions

Not done reading it yet, but I am done for today. I prefer to hold my comments until I've read the whole thing, and this one is 60+ pages for the majority opinion, and 157 pages total!

Preliminary opinion, based on the syllabus, what I've read so far, and what I've seen on other blogs? More good than bad: it established the 2nd Amendment as protecting an individual right, which is very important, and gives lower courts a good starting point. On the other hand, it does not rule out licensing and/or registration. On the gripping hand, for jurisdictions that do require licensing and/or registration, it seems to say that only shall-issue would be constitutional.
Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.
District of Columbia, et al. v. Heller, Slip Op., p. 64 ( p. 67 of the PDF) (emphasis added)

Additionally, while the majority does not specifically address the scrutiny issue, footnote 27 is promising because it outright rejects rational basis scrutiny.
If all that was required to overcome the right to keep and bear arms was a rational basis, the Second Amendment would be redundant with the separate constitutional prohibitions on irrational laws, and would have no effect.
Heller, Slip Op., Footnote 27, p. 56, 57 (p. 59, 60 of the PDF)

While footnotes are considered dicta, footnotes in a Supreme Court majority opinion are often considered more binding than circuit court decisions, and are usually given more weight by lower courts than the dissenting opinion in the same case.

Well, that's more than I planned on getting into tonight. More later this weekend!

Heller Affirmed!

The Supreme Court affirmed the D.C. Circuit Court's decision in Heller.

The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.
DC v. Heller, Syllabus, Available here.

More after work.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

SCOTUS Watch

No Heller today. Should be tomorrow.

They also ruled the death penalty unconstitutional for child-rape. My initial opinion is strongly opposed to that ruling, but I haven't read it for details yet. It appears to have been a 5-4 vote split right across conservative/liberal lines. I'm disappointed, but not surprised. I'll probably do a more detailed post about this one later.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why didn't they FIGHT??!!! (Part 2)

Since I posted on this yesterday, I've had a chance to distance myself from my anger a bit. I've also found some more complete stories about it here (thanks to David Codrea at The War on Guns) and here (by a Yahoo! search). There are a couple of points the original story didn't make clear. I'll be mixing quotes from the two stories linked to above.

At least one tried to stop the 27-year-old attacker, who swung and slammed the toddler into the asphalt and stomped on him behind his parked four-door Toyota pickup.

"One (person) tried to intervene, and the suspect pushed him off and continued assaulting the baby," Singh said.


By the time the ambulance had left the scene, Singh said, almost a dozen people had witnessed some part of the incident, with at least two trying to physically stop the suspect.

So, contrary to my prior belief, "at least" two people did try to physically intervene. This was not made clear in the earlier story I read, and I stand corrected on that point.

But...

Out of almost a dozen people, only two tried to do anything. And it doesn't look like they tried very hard. If being "pushed off" is enough to keep you from stopping something like this, then you're not really trying. If you're not beaten to the ground, unable to move, and you didn't stop him, you didn't try hard enough. I stand by my original assessment of these worthless cowards.

On a more positive note, the officer and his pilot are to be commended. The officer made the immediate decision to set down in a field by the road so he could get out and intervene, and the pilot did it. Let me emphasize, this is not something that is done lightly. This happened at 10:00 at night. Helicopter pilots are justifiably paranoid about things like power lines, because they are hard to see, hard to gauge distance to from the air, and they can kill a helicopter before anyone on board knows what's going on. At night they're practically invisible. As an EMS provider, I know for a fact that most pilots won't land in a field at night unless it's a regularly used LZ (landing zone) that they know has been used in daylight where such hazards can be easily seen. They also won't land in a field at night if it's not marked off, (usually done with fire or rescue vehicles), so they can see where the edges are. I have, in fact, seen some pilots refuse a known LZ because they weren't comfortable with it at night.
This pilot landed in an unmarked, unscouted, presumably unknown field, at night. If he had missed seeing a power line, or a tree, or anything, he could have killed himself and the officer with him. Seeing the situation, he took the risk.

That's the kind of courage every one of the bystanders should have shown. Instead, they let him "push" them off.

Cowards.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why didn't they FIGHT??!!!

This is just sick. (Please note that due to the nature of this story, I will break my usual rule of no profanity. And there will be yelling. Lots of yelling. There is just no other way to accurately get my feelings about this, and my point, across.)

Officials said Monday that 27-year-old Sergio Casian Aguilar parked his car on the country road Saturday night and proceeded to stomp, kick and punch a 2-year-old officials believe to be his son.
and
Passers-by called 911 and attempted to intervene. Dan Robinson, the chief of a local volunteer fire department, says he got out of his car and tried to stop Aguilar, whom he described as having a "total hollowness in his eyes."

He was finally shot at the scene by an officer responding to calls from bystanders. The original version from this morning is gone, and Yahoo! news doesn't seem to have a way to find it, but it mentioned that the first witnesses were an elderly couple who called 911, and that 2 or 3 other cars stopped with people calling 911. Although both stories mentioned people trying to stop him, neither mentioned any physical altercation, or anyone getting hurt trying to stop him.

The first thing I thought when I saw this was: Why the hell are you bothering to call 911?! When yelling at him to stop didn't work, why the fuck did nobody try to FIGHT him. He's beating the shit out of a 2 YEAR OLD CHILD for God's sake!! I know this is Kalifornia, so shooting him was probably not an option for these people, but even the elderly couple, if they can drive, they can swing a tire iron at his head from behind! There were 3 or 4 cars there, meaning at least 3 or 4 people. Dogpile the son of a bitch! Don't just stand there with your thumbs up your asses waiting for the police and watching a 2 year old child get beaten to death!! STOP HIM!!!!!

What's worse is the fire chief. Dan Robinson, you are a worthless piece of SHIT! You didn't "try to stop him," you tried to talk to him. He was beating this kid bloody. The story this morning said the child was so badly beaten that they were going to have to use DNA to identify him! If you're an active fire chief, you are not a 90 pound weakling. If you are? You're in the business of saving lives. As a volunteer. GRAB A TIRE IRON!! Hit him with a fire extinguisher!! Do something, DON'T JUST FUCKING STAND THERE!!!!

Even if he beats you senseless, even if he breaks every bone in your body, even if he kills you, protecting an innocent child is worth it. When he's beating you, he's not beating the child. If you last long enough, the police that the other useless cowards called will get there. Even if he finishes with you, you've bought the child some time.

There are some things worth fighting for. There are some things worth being injured for. There are some things worth dying for.

Stopping something like this is one of them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Tragedy, and a Lesson

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A 4-year-old girl shot herself in the chest Monday after snatching her grandmother's handgun from the woman's purse while riding in a shopping cart at a Sam's Club store, authorities said.

Full story here.

Thankfully, the child survived. It could have been much worse. As much as I hate to speak ill of someone who has undergone such a horrible experience, this incident illustrates two important points that must be made for safety's sake.

The grandmother in this case was negligent, and her granddaughter was hurt because of it. I'm sorry if that comes off as insensitive, but it's the truth. She left a loaded gun in easy reach of a 4 year old child.

1) There are several flaws with off-body (i.e. in a purse, jacket, etc.) carry. One of which is that if the bag is out of your reach, then the gun is out of your control. If a thief snatches it from the shopping cart, he has your gun, and you're left defenseless. If you set it down and forget to take it with you when you leave, you're defenseless and your gun is probably lost forever. If your 4 year old looks through it while your back is turned, tragedy will follow.

2) Don't ever assume that just because a gun is hidden, a child won't find it. This is true at home as well as in your purse. Secure means locked up, or in your possession and under your immediate control. Ladies, if you leave your purse with a 4 year old, they will eventually decide to look through it. The purse is where mommy keeps all the neat stuff, and the money she uses to buy toys. If you carry your gun there, they will play with it, and they will get hurt.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Welcome to Soviet Washington, DC. Your travel papers please.

This is being covered by several blogs, but I had to put my two cents in anyway.

This is how tyranny begins. Small infringements on rights are made to sound reasonable, due to circumstances at the time. The tyrants-to-be build on people's fears, and propose 'solutions' that may or may not work to fix the problem, using fear to get people to consent to give up rights and freedoms. Then another fear comes along, and the tyrants-to-be do it all over again. This time it's easy to go a little farther, to infringe peoples rights even more, because people are used to the last infringement. It's normal to them now. So a bigger infringement is seen as being not much, because it's not a lot more than what people are used to. And people are afraid, and willing, because it might fix the cause of their fear. (This works even better if the previous infringement even appears to have worked.) Eventually, you have tyranny.

How does this apply to DC? First you have the intermittent checkpoints they're creating now. Checking peoples ID for their addresses and, if they don't live in the neighborhood, making them give a 'legitimate purpose' to enter. Once people get used to that, and start thinking it's 'normal' and 'legitimate,' they'll say "We're seeing results, but it's not as effective as it could be. There's still a crime problem." The next step will be to make the checkpoint permanent. Then once people are used to that, they'll add more. Then they'll say "It worked in this neighborhood, we're going to do it in other 'high crime' areas." Other cities will start, because "it worked in Washington." Eventually, we'll need to state a 'legitimate purpose' when you try to cross state or even county lines, and to enter cities. Then you'll have to state a 'legitimate purpose,' and get government approval, before you travel. Travel papers. Just like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

If anyone thinks this is far-fetched, that it could never go that far in America, look at gun control for an example. Washington DC is a good place to start. First they started restricting some guns. They restricted when and who could carry guns away from home. Who could carry concealed. Soon, very few could own a handgun. Eventually, the laws became so pervasive that they dictate what you can do with a gun inside your own home. Today, carrying a functional gun from one room to another in your own home is illegal in DC.

Look at gun control in Canada. In Great Britain. In Australia. The American Colonies of the British Empire. (Wait, that last one didn't really take, did it?)

Look at Nazi Germany. Soviet Russia. They started with small infringements, or infringing the rights of unpopular groups. Then more, bits and pieces at a time. Eventually, they fell into tyranny.

If we do not stop this today, if we allow these small, popular infringements to continue, they will build into tyranny. It may take ten, fifty, or one hundred years, but it will happen.

Unless it is stopped today.